Local elections need to work before councils are trusted with budgets

Two ideas.
Urgently, the insurance-like role of the state doesn't fit local democracy.
When you pay your car insurance you don't expect less service in a particular area because Mayer Rahman has decreed so. Insurance is a deal between people over decades, or an individual over decades, not between people who share a physical region for a period of five years.

National Insurance should be the same I think. The UK is unusual in not having a clear national insurance fund, but the NHS, benefits, and the social care budgets that councils have not been able to keep-up, should be funded from one national budget I think.

If any politicians set budgets for health, benefits, and social care I think they should be national politicians who are accountable in the most widely-reported and understood way, and can offer economies of scale in making the decision of what a benefits system should be for a dozens of millions of people. They are able to pay for the best ministerial advice.

I think the national insurance fund needs to be protected from national politicians as well as local ones. I'll probably cover this in another post. The reason for posting in a local government section is a quick one below.

Local elections should be reportable.
Local elections should not be held in more than two councils together in the same week and in the same TV zone. Expensive, but worthwhile. Otherwise the media simply cannot report dozens of elections at the same time, and so they report less well-known elections as an opinon poll for the most well known elections, which are those to Westminster.

The reason why staggered elections are worth the cost is that they forces news teams to report council elections on the strength of what local politicians are doing, and not as an opinion poll for national parties. Has Lambeth's notorious housing benefit admin improved compared to Camden's efficient admin? Is Hammersmith funded by parking fines? Who are councillors and do they look sane talking on TV? Is Tower Hamlets really so mad and how did the crisis happen? Why does Richmond route so many services through one particular faith group and do the electorate know this?

I think local democracy can work for the obvious visible issues, like street cleaning and maybe even managing a national budget for other things, but local elections need help before they work well. Before I go, I suggest that ballot papers should not be allowed to list the same party name for candidates in two chambers, so probably my councillors would choose to stand as "Richmond Conservatives" and MP as "Conservative".

edited on Feb 25, 2015 by John Robertson

Edward Jones Apr 11, 2015

Now we've entered the refining phase, how do you think this idea could be refined to a more concise proposition?

  Please continue to vote for/against ideas and feel free to change you original vote.

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John Robertson Apr 11, 2015

Idea 1 can be ignored as covered by https://constitutionuk.com/post/102224.

Idea 2
If there's a constitution then "Local elections should be reportable.
Local elections should not be held in more than two councils together in the same week and in the same TV zone." could be fine, if a bit too specific perhaps.

Detail belongs in the Representation of the People Act, I think, referred to in a constitutional document or just a guide book. I had a look at a recent 1983 version of the law to see what is says...


37 Ordinary day of local elections in England and Wales.
In every year the ordinary day of election of councillors is the same for all local government areas in England and Wales and is—
(a)the first Thursday in May;
(b)such other day as... bla


How about this?

Ordinary Thursday for elections
The secretary of state shall list councils and other elected authorities in each BBC TV zone
The secretary of state shall set ordinary election dates such that no more than two are held on one TV zone in a week, and none on the same day as a general election..
The first two councils and similar bodies alphabetically will use the first Thursday in May, second two alphabetically the second Thursday, and so-on until done.
Councils are free to swap dates with other councils in the region for the purpose of making TV coverage more interesting or voting easier.

[in a different paragraph of the act]
Westminster elections will be held on a Monday in order not to hold them on the day of a council election.

This is a rough draft. I don't know how many elections are held in each TV zone or how much the terms of office would have to be stretched or compressed until regular dates settled-down.

I realise this law needs updating if broadcasting habits change, but don't know how else to get the concept going. The current law has references to statutory instruments so maybe detail could be buried in there for easy update.

Current UK TV regions are mapped on this page, even though it says "england"

I mentioned a small idea about party names on ballot papers as well. I think that's worth writing into the Representation of the People act somehow too.

I've never stood as a councillor or anything like. If anyone has a list of people with first hand experience, it would be good to tag them all.

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Tom Austin Apr 18, 2015

If or when it is decided that there should be any form of sub-national government, and if any part of that is to comprise elected representatives, they should at the very least impinge upon the consciousness of the electorate.

While I'm not against staggering such elections by 'region', rather than tie this to Television might it be best to to elect whole bodies at the one time? I think this is in no way against the public interest, and is sure to concentrate the minds of all involved - and I do mean ALL.

John Robertson Apr 18, 2015

I fudged this a bit by assuming that BBC TV regions will be the main source of regional news for a long time. Using their boundaries them makes the purpose of the law obvious and keeps it up to date if the regions change.

I fudged this as well by assuming that BBC TV regions will share boundaries with elected bodies. If there are any examples of exceptions, I think a get-out clause of ifs-and-buts would be good.

Tom Austin Apr 18, 2015

[Good man John, for reminding me to vote this up.]

I see little of the 'fudge' in this. All things statuesque began life as a formless lump of rock, we'll lick this into shape yet.